Slowly, though, the surge has eased again, and though we know that the dragon is still very much in the forest, many of us have tried to take precautions and yet try to lead less restricted lives.
Dr M B Krishna, affectionately called MBK, decided to revive the monthly 2nd Sunday walk, and the first one post-lockdown was on July 11. He broke with the long tradition of meeting at the Glass House and following a set route, by changing the meeting point to the West Gate. This is definitely easier to access by publicth transport (the Metro and BMTC having started operations in full swing), a point that weighed with MBK, no doubt. Cars could also be parked in the areas near Kamath restaurant.
MBK with Vishesh and U Harish Kumar
I guess we were all wondering what the turnout would be like; and as expected (perhaps as some feared!) we had 40 + people gathering. A sure sign that many of us feel that an outdoor activity, where we need not crowd one another, was a healthy option.
I took Namita, Reshma and Shirish to the gardens about an hour earlier, and we went and had a look at the Spotted Owlets. Reshma also pointed out two Black-rumped Flamebacks
in the Wild Almond (Sterculia foetida) tree, with its very artistic seed pods that assume a beautiful heart-shape when they burst open and disperse the seeds.
We followed the others after locating them, keeping the lake bund on our left,
Walking without crowding one another.
and started by sighting both our common Barbets, the Coppersmith and the White-cheeked species. There was no dearth of the four most common species in our city, that I refer to as CKMP (Crow, Kite, Myna, Pigeon). We distinguished the House Crow from the Jungle Crow, the Jungle Myna from the Common one, and the Black Kite, with its characteristic V-shape in the tail, from the Brahminy Kite that is called Garuda.
The other abundant species in the botanical garden is, of course, the Rose-ringed Parakeets; we watched several of these gobeautiful birds flying around, or foraging on the ground for the rice or seeds which man y visitors scatter for the birds.
We turned our attention to the waterfowl; experts like MBK, Harish Kumar, and Kishan showed us the difference between the shore waders like the Little or Intermediate Egret, and the Herons, the birds like Little Grebes or Spot-billed Ducks that really "duck" under the surface of the water to find their food, and the divers like the Cormorants (we saw all the three common species, the Little, the Great, and the indian) and Kingfishers, which go deep under the surface and come up with fish or insects. Kishan's "Grimmskipp" as we refer to it (the field guide by Grimmett and Inskipp) was in use constantly, as he referred to the pictures and participants looked at the birds.
On we walked, remarking on the majesty and girth of many of the trees, especially the Silk-cotton (Bombax or Ceiba sp) many of which had burst seed pods scattering the soft down on the ground. A few petals of the late-blooming Gulmohar (Delonix regia) lay on the path. The Jacaranda trees, which I learnt, were called "Blue Gulmohar", had bloomed much earlier, and we could see their seed pods, too.
We sighted a juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron in the reeds on the banks, and those patient fishermen, the Pond Herons
were in their beautiful breeding plumage too. A lone Spot-billed Pelican glided effortlessly on the water, and Kishan pointed out the gular sac at the bottom of their beaks, that allow them to scoop up large quantities of water (hopefully, with plenty of fish in it, too!). We saw the typical "Christ on the Cross" pose of the Cormorants which sit with outspread wings to dry their feathers after a dive.
The "Christ on the Cross" pose of the Cormorant
Several of us had brought our cameras, and since MBK has ensured that this walk is part of the planned activities in Lalbagh, we were not harassed as we took photographs of the feeding behaviour of the birds.
It was very heartening to have many youngsters, both school and college goers, in the gathering. Many of us had notebooks and pens,
Nagashree and some of the children with their notebooks and pens. Many adults kept notes too.
and wrote down the names of the birds we saw, as also some of the other living beings. For example, I was able to point out the poisonous but beautiful Oleander (Nerium sp) bushes, the beauty of the Peacock flowers (Caeselpinia pulcherrima), as well as the far less noticed herbs like Punarnava (Boehravia diffusa),
with its microscopic but perfect flowers, used in Ayurveda. We looked at Cotton Stainer Bugs,
millipedes, and even a Weaver Ant that climbed on Kishan's shirt!
Two-tailed Spider on her egg sac
I must mention here that MBK always seems to attract youngsters around him, and people like Reshma, Varaprasad and Vishesh, have built up their own groups of young nature lovers, who are observant and also listen carefully to the information imparted by the experts. One of the best features of the Labagh walks is the nuggets of information which we can get from the experienced people who come and spend time with us and share their knowledge generously, sometimes laced with humour and wit. I was very happy to meet Annapurna, who has taken the initiative to start bird walks in Chennapatna. These young men and women seem quite knowledgeable about things that it has taken me years to learn slowly!
Many of the children enthusiastically called out the names of the many living beings that we were seeing. We did not miss even the lichen growing on the trees, which have a symbiotic relationship with them, thriving in exchange for protecting the trees against boring insects or other infections.
Some of the sights were, of course, less than delightful. Discarded trash and plastic bottles, a Fruit Bat entangled in some wire (which apparently died even after being rescued),
a sick Jungle Crow which sat disconsolately on the ground, not moving even when we passed very near it...
not all is well in this small patch of Nature that is Lalbagh.
I had also pointed out, earlier, the pitiable condition of some of the heritage structures in the park; I cannot understand why the funds collected from visitors cannot be used to maintain these, which are falling into ruin, and will, at this rate, only be a memory and live on in photographs.
The weather was rather too cloudy and dull for many butterflies to appear, but I give below a few of the species I noted.
As we moved on, the pangs of hunger struck, and some of us returned; but many of the group wound up with animated discussions over breakfast at Kamath, which has also been the traditional way to wind up the outing. The four of us went to my favourite place in J P Nagar 3rd Phase, called Checkpost, where we liked the Mangalore dish, called "Pundi"
Lalbagh is a place where, according to MBK, the number of bird species has fallen by over 70 per cent; but the monthly outing is immeasurably rich in both the company of the experts, as well as the camaraderie of the whole group, where an interest in Nature is shared.
I too have revived my Covid-Careful outings to destinations in and around Bangalore. Though right now with limited numbers, I hope to be able to conduct open walks soon; the outing to Bettakotte kere (near the airport) with 17 members, on Saturday, was a kind of trial run!
Looking forward to more outings to watch the various living beings that surround us, whether in the city or its environs.
Kishan will be providing his usual list of birds; but meanwhile, the eBird list is at
I have put up my photos, with captions and ids, on my Flickr album at
and on an FB album at
Awl, Common Banded
Blue, Lesser Grass
Blue, Pale Grass
Blue, Tiny Grass
Emigrant, Common (Lemon)
Yellow, Common Grass
See you all again, soon, on an outing!